New year, new wardrobe. Lols not anymore 😭

Happy new year!! Can I still say that? Sooo this is my second blog post. In 5 months. This is really going well.
The last few months have been…interesting. I was thinking that 2019 hadn’t been that bad a year, and then December hit. December was interesting. I did a lot of thinking about my goals, and reevaluating areas of my life. I though a lot about habits and situations I am NOT taking into 2020. It just isn’t happening. Soz.
It was kinda harsh. It actually started feeling a bit too negative, until I remembered, meh, life is harsh. Also I started to pay attention to my positive achievements throughout last year. The areas that I wanted to grow further in. This being one of them!
I took a break from my sustainable fashion course over the Christmas period and now it’s back to work. A New year with a revitalised focus and working on my discipline.

Starting by dropping the facts (these are not alternative):
The fashion industry is currently the single most polluting industry in the world. More than air transport and the meat industry. In addition, approximately 50 million people around the world work in the fashion industry. But incredibly, over half of these workers make less than minimum wage (some suffering terrible conditions) while the fashion industry itself generates up to $3 trillion in revenue a year.

The impact of the industry is two fold. Firstly on our natural resources and planetary boundaries; but also on the most vulnerable people and countries around the globe. The high demand in the industry is what leads to the overuse of resources that are fast dwindling, and the mishandling of waste management. It is also what leads to a demand for more cheap workers. This contributes to poor labour conditions. We see it in the news all the time. Tragic factory fires and building collapses…and then we find out that those factories were supplying high street stores.

Garment Factory building collapse Dhaka, Bangladesh 2013

So. What do I do about this? What can I do about this? I’ve been having a lot of these thoughts recently.
I’m not entirely sure. I think I know a bit more about how the industry works. But the more you learn, the more you see the problems and complexities in a lot of the current solutions.
One thing that’s said is “just don’t buy fast fashion”. Or “stay away from all the cheap stores because they utilise cheap labour”. Better yet, “buy better quality clothes they last longer.”

Well, The fast fashion business model is premised on the fact that clothes are for temporary consumption so you buy more often. They roll out a new collection almost every day or week.
Better quality clothes are meant to last longer and you know everyone’s probably being paid a fair wage. It says made in Italy. No sweatshops there. Problem solved.

Well not exactly. Apparently it’s complicated. Made in Italy doesn’t mean made entirely in Italy. Who knew? Many companies who “make in Italy” will still source some parts from “cheap labour” countries.
The fast fashion business model affects everyone. To keep up with H&M and online stores, a lot of higher quality and luxury brands have gone from 2 seasons to 5-6 in a year. Which means they need to speed up the production process in order to meet demand, and is why your favourite quality staples (cough cough M&S) feel like shitter quality now. They have to cut corners somewhere!

(Side note: what’s also rarely talked about is the privilege that goes into saying “just buy better quality clothes”. What if you can’t afford it?? I Iive in London, I know. It’s hard out here. Trying to rub two pennies together to make a silk shirt is not happening.)

Are we really only meant to buy/source European made clothes? Fashion and textile companies do source from developing counties because those goods can be made cheaper. But a factor in making them cheaper is because a lot of developing markets benefit from preferential import rates into the UK market for Textiles & clothing. Those preferential rates are actually meant to encourage imports into the UK from developing countries i.e Bangladesh. This provides more choice for UK consumers and greater business opportunities for Bangladeshi producers. (The China model is a whole other issue that we won’t get into… but they don’t have preferential rates, before anyone asks.)
However, poor labour standards still needs to be tackled. There is a serious issue with labour conditions, (the recent fire in Bangladesh) but as a consumer I still want to support clothing imports from developing countries that aid in employment prospects around the globe. What I’m trying to figure out is how to do that without supporting the exploitation of workers. And this means I probably need to be more aware of manufacturing practices of stores I buy from. Aghhh that’s so hard.

Following the ethical fashion trend, some stores are trying to be a bit more transparent about their manufacturing chains. Just a tiny bit.

candid shot from oxford store 2020
H&M sustainable collection 2016

It’s a nice start from high street stores. Although this hasn’t stopped the conveyor belt of clothes constantly being produced. A big issue is that although they are using/reusing sustainable fabrics (just a bit), the high demand still contributes to poor standards as this translates to demand placed on workers. The idea is tackling the first issue of natural resources, but not the human element. Quite a way from being truly sustainable.

Which leads me to new thoughts about changing habits. So I’m trying to do a culture change. New year, new habits. Hopefully. A big thing for me has been buying more second hand clothing. The next step ….is to consume less. Contribute to less demand! gahhhh

Since the start of the year, I’ve been trying something new. – Which according to one friend of mine is ironic because it’s literally the anthesis of my personality. – I might have to agree.
I love clothes. Like love love. But I am not going to be buying new clothes. Maybe for 6 months, maybe for longer.
Obviously underwear is exempt. But yep no new clothes. If need be, I’m going to mend my clothes. And if I really need something, I will try and get it second hand first.
We will review after 6 months. This is going to be hard.

My favourite Leather Jacket

So this is my first blog post, all about my efforts in living sustainably… but mainly on my interests, musings and weird observations. Maybe, it’s going to be a refreshing insight into a millennial mind and the emerging values of conscious purchasing warring with a previous habitual consumerist mindset.
Or maybe it’s going to sound very mainstream and is common sense musings that has already been thought of before and is nothing new. Maybe. I don’t know. We’ll see.

I thought I’d start my first post with a personal anecdote on how my increased awareness of the sustainability conversation has impacted my life in the most precious way. My wardrobe.

The majority of my wardrobe is not sustainable. I think. I don’t know. It’s never really been a question for me before the last couple of years, so I’m still getting used to this new way of thinking. Thrift shopping was not a thing growing up and when I accidentally bought my father a suit jacket from a charity shop for his birthday (long story) I definitely saw a difference in quality.
As a teenager primark was my best friend. I was a kid, and they had cheap clothes. But I didn’t buy things super regularly as my mum still bought most of my clothes. Yeah. It wasn’t till I got to Uni and I discovered online sites – which literally had a new selection everyday – that I felt I developed my own style. I guess because it was so cheap I could afford a bit more trial and error.

I’ve become more particular now about what I buy. Making sure it’s well made and I place emphasis on longevity which costs a bit more and so I buy less. But I sometimes wonder if it was because I was first able to gauge on clothes, that has helped me to now have more discerning tastes (there’s going to be a whole blog post on fast fashion later). But onto one of my favourite items in my closet. My leather jacket. It’s second hand you know! I’m very proud to say that now. We’re living in very different times from my parents.

Its a funny story with this jacket. I actually bought it a year and a half ago in frustration at an expensive leather jacket that was a crap fit. I’d been really excited to buy my first designer biker leather jacket and better yet, it was on sale! Unfortunately it was an actual biker jacket and not the ‘fashion biker’ jacket I wanted. It was very durable and long lasting… but not quite the cute edgy look I was going for.
I really really didn’t want to spend another £100 on another leather jacket, and so I made up my mind to stick it out with my boxy, shoulder paddy looking ‘authentic’ leathers. That didn’t last long.
About a couple of weeks later (yup that’s how long it took) I caught sight of a cute second hand one in my local traid store for a fraction of the price. I was haaaaaappy! I also felt justified in spending because it was second hand. Hey, the money was going to good place anyway.

At the moment I saw the jacket my first thought wasn’t “yes! I’ve found what I’m looking for”. It was more….”oh look I’ve found a cute jacket at much cheaper than retail price and it’s second hand so technically I’m not really buying too much”.

Ever since a Traid store opened up in Peckham a few years before, I’d been making a habit of popping into there when I felt the need to browse clothes alongside the other high street shops. The difference was, I felt less guilty buying there. I felt a sense of achievement in finding a bargain and  doing my environmental bit all at once. Major points for me! -will totally justify the McDonald’s binge later.

Now, some of my favourite pieces are from second hand shops. But they weren’t the shops I grew up with (which if I’m being honest ) didn’t seem to have that many nice clothes.

My new tendency to browse charity shops didn’t just start because I’d been thinking – I really need make an effort in reducing how often I bought new clothes. I had been thinking that. But I had been thinking that for quite a while before I actually started. Honestly? It became a habit when Traid opened its doors on my high street. Traid do a lot of awesome work around the globe and it felt cool that I could feel like I was playing my part with minimal effort.
For me, the intent was there but the ease of having something near me was great. I’m realising now though, that to sustain initiatives like this I have to be more about intent. I don’t live next to a Traid store anymore. But the reason why one opened up next to me was because there was an increased demand for it that sustained it. Other people had the intent to be more responsible with their clothing purchases that led to me benefiting.

For me, this is what sustainability is about: conscious responsibility that transcends borders. The global community is fundamentally unequal. And this inequality is being sustained through personal habits and society at large. I’m not quite sure how to best to play my part in changing this, but this blog is going to be me exploring all the different global efforts and my personal ones.

Anyway all this is to say, that I’ve been on a bit of a journey with my wardrobe and the sustainability question in general. One thing I’ve learnt is that part of the current trend on sustainable fashion is, that it feels exactly that. A trend. But it’s been the most important trend in decades and one I’m at least personally determined to sustain. Welcome to my journey. (que TV show dramatic music)

Let’s see how it goes. Lols

Me enjoying my beautiful jacket without a care in the world 😀

About me

Hi I’m Vic,

I’m a British-Nigerian Londoner and recently, I’ve become more conscious about my personal impact on the world. I currently work in International Climate and Sustainable development where my interest in ethical fashion trade has changed the way I think about our increasingly integrated world.
In my day to day, I’ve realised that I’ve become more aware of what I spend my money on; and on a global scale, I’m paying more attention to issues that affect our collective future.

The reason why I started this blog is because I have all these thoughts and opinions about global efforts and living sustainably, and I thought it’d be cool to gather all these thoughts into one place! ….Also I’m starting an online sustainable fashion course soon and I figured this would make me accountable.